A Brief Note From The Doylist Perspective

So, saw an addition to the verse’ trope page today:

Libertarians In Space: Examined. The central setting, the Empire of the Star, is portrayed as a libertarian Utopia, where respect for liberty and personal choice is balanced by an admirably cheerful general attitude of voluntary civic-mindedness. On the other hand, it’s mentioned that there are plenty of outliers outside Imperial space where a narrow, dog-eat-dog, almost Randian interpretation of self-interest is practiced; it’s implied that these are not nice places to live at all, especially if you can’t afford decent protection services.

Well, now. To pick a nit or two…

While this is generally accurate – in any form of governance, it turns out, people are a problem1 – and while it’s bad form, I’m told, to edit Word of God entries onto one’s own trope page, the author would beg to point out that he believes that the locals (after being provided with the appropriate literature) would probably point out that they are practicing something relatively close to a Randian interpretation of enlightened self-interest, and really, can’t these bloody Earth-monkey [pseudo|anti]-objectivists get anything right? Haven’t they even read Effective Selfishness2 [Aral Harran, pub. 7222, Clue KEW Press]? (Of course, they’d probably interpret that wrong, too.)

1. With apologies to Douglas Adams.

Also 1. If you’re an Imperial libertist, an Earth libertarian, or an anarchist anywhere, you would probably add the corollary that the problem only gets worse if you let people be in charge of things, and also people. If you’re anything else, your mileage may vary.

2. A book which points out, for those who haven’t guessed already, that similar to the alchemy which transforms effective Evil Overlords into mere Unpleasant Accountants, that it’s mathematically demonstrable that you maximize your own personal return through cooperation, niceness, active reciprocal benevolence, and only punishing defectors. That’s optimal selfishness.

Your “nasty defectors” are screwing themselves over by sticking to a particularly idiotic local maximum that’s far, far below this in terms of productivity.

(This is why the typical Imperial critique of people the rest of the galaxy sees as greedy tends to be less “you evil plundering greedheads” and more “man, you suck at greed”.

And now my head is going to be full of Gilea Cheraelar lecturing Donald Trump on how he is basically a complete and utter failure in this respect and a disgrace to the good name of plutarchy, so, um, thanks, brain!)

Making Sausage: Trope-a-Day Order

This is answering a metaquestion, hence the odd prefix:

More of a “how the sausage is made” question than anything relevant in-universe, but what’s your procedure for arranging the Trope-of-the-Day order?  I’ve been thinking of using the idea for a world-building / possible writing project of my own that I’ve had in my head for a while, and I’m curious as to how exactly you go about it.

Well… mostly, as little as possible.

It’s sort of two pointers chasing each other, with the occasional variation since it’s not like TV Tropes itself is a fixed list…

I mostly obtain tropes to fill up the list by running through applicable indexes (starting, obviously enough, with “Speculative Fiction Tropes“, for me) on the TV Tropes sites, which start out in alphabetical order. That, though, is supplemented by suggestions, tropes I just happen to happen across, and occasional looking at the tropes listed for other works that I perceive as having something in common with mine just to see if I’ve missed anything interesting.

And then as I do the write-ups, I add them to my tropes list, which I keep reordered into alphabetical order so I can find stuff.

For publishing purposes, here, I just run through that list in alphabetical order (even though, per above, that’s not necessarily how they got onto it) and publish one a day.

Except: there are dependencies, in the form of some trope write-ups that mention other trope-write ups, in which case I publish the trope that it depends on first, out of order, if it isn’t already so that I don’t have to explain the missing link or remember to go back and put the link in earlier when I get to the other trope.  (So, for example, despite being in the middle of the letter S, in the next few days we’ll see What Do You Mean It’s Not Political?, because Strawman Political references it.)

In the case of multiple dependencies, I’ll do a depth-first recursion on this principle, so sometimes you’ll see very large digressions – and I’ll end up making whiteboard diagrams – when many tropes reference each other. (At least once, too, I’ve had a dependency cycle, which is just annoying and forces me to pick an arbitrary starting point.)

And then, when they’re particularly relevant to something else I’ve written at the time (like Reactionless Drive) or that’s happening in the world (like Space Marine), I’ll just post them out of order anyway.

So. Yeah. That’s my process. Kind of a plan-of-no-plan, isn’t it?


Trope-a-Day: Microts

Microts: Ah, the wonders of time measurement.

The Eldrae have a number of time measurement systems (well, when you’re an interstellar polity, you more or less have to, since local days and years vary all over the place and it’s handy if your time units bear some resemblance to what nature is doing). But there are two systems that are used more or less everywhere, so I’ll talk about those a little.

The first, “weavetime”, is the one that technical systems use internally, and as the basis for all the other systems, because it defines the base unit, the “pulse”. (It’s not actually the fundamental unit, I suppose, because it’s not the Planck time, nor is it a nice clean number in terms of things atomic clocks, etc., actually measure, but it’s the traditional “second”, if you will. It’s actually based on the length of a nominal resting heartbeat as a multiple of the Planck time – roughly 3/4 of an Earth second, in their terms.) And for scientific and technical purposes, weavetime just agglomerates pulses together, producing kilopulses (about a third of a local hour; 21.6 minutes), megapulses (24 local days; 26 of ours), gigapulses (124 of their years, 122.5 of ours), etc.

Weavetime is defined by consensus agreement of baseline clocks located aboard each and every stargate in the plexus, which together produces the “empire time reference frame”, a nice preferred standard by which everyone can agree what the time is despite all the wormhole FTLing. It also includes the standards for the frame-correction algorithms used to synchronize lighthugger starships and other objects moving at inconveniently relativity-invoking speeds up by defining the difference between the absolute pulse (“empire time”) and the local pulse (“wall-clock time”).

Said lighthugger starships, incidentally, generally make their own lives simpler by using “mission elapsed time” internally, thus avoiding having to use a pulse too different in length from everyone else’s, and go back on the local timebase when they arrive.

But weavetime is kind of inconvenient for day to day use – the nearest “day-length” unit, quite apart from not matching any planet anywhere, is the 144-kilopulse unit at 52 Earth hours, which is not that useful.

So for regular living, people use Imperial Standard Time, which in the finest traditions of hegemonists everywhere is essentially the same as planetary time for the eldrae homeworld, only using the precisely calculated weavetime pulse. It’s local time for there, and for everywhere whose day length is too short (e.g., space stations, where the local day can be around an hour), or too long (tide-locked worlds, where the local day can be around a year), or too weird (e.g., moons of gas giants, where argh conventional calendar does not work), to have a practical local calendar; it’s also used universally as the commercial calendar to work out public holidays, the financial year, etc., etc.

IST uses a local day that’s approximately 26 Earth hours long; that time unit is referred to as one “cycle”. It divides it in half precisely into day and night – which works well for their world, which lacks any axial-tilt-equivalent due to not being a conventional planet and so has no day-length variation – and then divides the day into twelve “hours” (~ 65 Earth minutes) and the night into six “watches”; each of these are individually named, although in writing them briefly it’s acceptable to number them instead.

The name actually doesn’t refer to the whole period, but rather to the moment the period centers around, so while an hour is divided into 72 minutes (each ~ 54 seconds), these are counted as 36 “rising” minutes before the named moment, and 36 “falling” minutes after it. Watches are, obviously, divided into 144 minutes, 72 before and 72 afterward.  And each minute contains 72 pulses.

The calendar divides the homeworld’s year (333.3 local cycles in length), into 333 cycles with an additional intercalary cycle (“Calibration”) added every third year (and omitted every thirtieth) to fix the lag, in turn divided into 37 weeks of nine cycles each, which pleasingly allows the weeks to fit evenly into the year and make each calendar date the same day of the week. It’s also divided into months (whose length is taken from the period of the more prominent of the planet’s moons, but which no longer follow its phases, since they’re now synchronized with the years) each 27 days long. This, obviously, doesn’t exactly fit into the length of the year, so there are nine intercalary cycles added at various points to make up the slack.

Trope Me Definitely

So, uh, despite what I said the other day, I went ahead and set a TV Tropes page up for the Eldraeverse.

Y’see, what I figure is that the hardest part in creating such a thing is actually creating the page. That’s a fair bit of work, so it has a high bar to getting started. Actually putting tropes on it once it exists, now that’s much easier. So by doing the initial setup and giving it a decent set of starting tropes, I can catalyze things.

I still don’t intend to trope everything myself, though, or even anything close to it. That way lies madness and site abuse.

But if it’s made it easier for y’all in the fan community to collect these things, jolly good.

Trope Me Maybe?

A commenter over on Google+ suggests that the issues mentioned in my last post could also be satisfied by an Eldraeverse TV Tropes page.

And, well, I certainly can’t argue against that. But while technically creators are allowed to trope their own works, I’m not terribly comfortable with doing that, myself. I am, after all, a great sea of pro-me bias… and also, in all probability, unduly influenced by my trope-a-day series, which while it uses TV Tropes as a worldbuilding tool, does not on the whole do so in TV Tropes compatible format.

Or, to put it another way, I can’t help but think such a page should be for the tropes y’all find in my works, not for the tropes I try to design in.

But, hey, consider this an open invitation for any tropers among my readers to set to and create such a thing! I have faith that such an effort would be appreciated greatly by both me and the general community.

One drawback…

…of the trope-a-day worldbuilding technique I use is the recurring nightmare I have that someone is collecting them all in one ridiculously large file they plan to dump on TV Tropes en masse.

Which isn’t really the point of the exercise and I’m sure would annoy them right mightily.

Not that I’d object to having a shiny Eldraeverse tropes page (do I even have any tropers among my readership?), of course. Just not… that way. Found tropes only, please.